72 Hours: Is Your Family Prepared?

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If an emergency happens in your community, it may take emergency workers some time to reach you. You should be prepared to take care of yourself and your family for a minimum of 72 hours.

Learn how quick and easy it is to become better prepared to face a range of emergencies – anytime, anywhere. Use this guide provided by Public Safety Canada to create your own emergency plan. Use the checklists to build a 72-hour emergency kit. These basic steps will help you take care of yourself and your loved ones during an emergency.

Step 1. Know the risks

Although the consequences of various disasters can be similar, knowing the risks in your region can help you better prepare. Across Canada, we face a number of hazards, such as floods in many provinces, earthquakes in British Columbia, blizzards in Nunavut and tornadoes in Ontario. In addition to natural disasters, there are other types of risks, such as power outages and industrial or transportation accidents.

Some of the risks below may be relevant to your community. Find out which ones by visiting GetPrepared.ca. You may want to identify the most likely ones for easy reference. You may also want to find out how disasters have impacted Canadians. Learn more about disasters, including those triggered by natural hazards, technological hazards or conflict by using the Canadian Disaster Database at: http://www.publicsafety.gc.ca/cdd

For more emergency preparedness information, visit GetPrepared.ca or follow @Get_Prepared on Twitter.

Step 2. Make a plan

Every Canadian household needs an emergency plan. It will help you and your family know what to do in case of an emergency. It will take you about 20 minutes to make your plan.

Your family may not be together when an emergency occurs. Plan how to meet or how to contact one another, and discuss what you would do in different situations.

Use the following pages to create your plan. Most of this information can be filled out on your own. You may need to get some information from your municipality and province/territory about their emergency plans. A list of provincial emergency management agencies is available at the end of this guide.

Keep this document in an easy-to-find, easy-to-remember place (for example, with your emergency kit). Photocopy this plan and keep it in your car and/or at work, and a copy close to your phone. If you completed your plan online, keep an electronic version on your computer.

Plan for specific risks

Public Safety Canada offers brochures on specific risks, such as earthquakes, power outages, floods and severe storms. Download copies from GetPrepared.ca.

Neighbourhood safety plan

Work with your neighbours to identify people who may need extra help during an emergency. To help make sure everyone is taken care of, assign “block buddies.”

Write yourself a reminder to update your emergency plan one year from now.

On this date next year, review your contact information, practise your emergency evacuation plans, change the batteries in your smoke alarm and carbon monoxide detector, and restock your kit(s). Change the batteries, food and water in your emergency kits once a year.

Household plan

Emergency exits

Draw up a floor plan of your home that shows all possible exits from each room. Plan a main exit route and an alternate exit route from each room. If you live in an apartment, plan to use the stairs instead of the elevators. If you are unable to use the stairs, notify emergency personnel ahead of time. Also, identify an evacuation route from your neighbourhood in case you need to leave in a hurry (and think of more than one option).

Meeting places

Identify safe places where everyone should meet if you cannot go home or you need to evacuate

Safe meeting place near home

Safe meeting place outside immediate neighbourhood

Evacuation routes from neighbourhood

Safe idea

Make copies of important documents

Make copies of birth and marriage certificates, passports, licences, wills, land deeds and insurance. Take photos of family members in case a lost persons record is created. Keep them in a safe place, both inside and outside your home. You might want to put them in a safety deposit box or give them to friends and family who live out of town.


Learn about the emergency evacuation plans in place and what you will need to do. You may want to have some basic supplies at work, such as water and food that won’t spoil, in case you need to stay put for a while.

Check  with your employer about workplace emergency plans, including fire alarms, emergency exits, meeting points, and designated safety personnel or floor wardens.


Ask your children’s school or daycare about their emergency policies. Find out how they will contact families during an emergency.

Find out what type of authorization the school or daycare requires to release your children to a designated person if you can’t pick them up.

Make sure the school or daycare has updated contact information for parents, caregivers and designated persons.

Plan for pets

In case of an evacuation, remember that pets are not allowed in some public shelters or hotels. In case of an evacuation, prepare to take your pets with you to the home of a relative or friend, or take steps to identify pet-friendly hotels or pet boarding facilities in your area and further away from home.

Special health needs

Establish a personal support network of friends, relatives, health-care providers, co-workers and neighbours who understand your special needs.

Write down details about:

Accommodation needs

Insurance information


Medical conditions

Emergency contacts


Family medical history

Recent vaccinations

Health screenings


Keep a copy of this information in your emergency kit, and give a copy to your personal support network.

Talk to your doctor about preparing a grab-and-go bag, if possible, with a two-week supply of medication and medical supplies. Include prescriptions and medical documents. Remember that pharmacies may be closed for some time, even after an emergency is over.

Health information

Medication and medical equipment

Grab-and-go bag location

Emergency number

Non-emergency numbers

Out-of-town contact


Friend/neighbour- Arrange for each family member to call, e-mail or text the same out-of-town contact person in case of an emergency. Choose an out-of-town contact who lives far enough away that he or she is unlikely to be affected by the same event. If you are new to Canada or have recently moved to a new area, make arrangements through friends, cultural associations or community organizations.

Family doctors

Insurance agent/company

Home security system

Safe home instructions

Make sure you have a working carbon monoxide detector, smoke alarm, fire extinguisher and well-stocked first aid kit. If you live in an apartment, or if you are staying in a hotel, know where the fire alarms and at least two emergency exits are located.

Make sure you have a fire extinguisher on every level of your home, including one in your kitchen. Everyone in your home should know where to find the fire extinguishers. All capable adults and older children should know how to use it. See instructions regarding the lifetime of your fire extinguisher and check with your local fire department for more information.

Older children and adults should know how to turn off your home’s water, electricity and gas. Make large, easy-to-see signs for water and gas shut-offs as well as for the electrical panel.

Teach children how and when to dial 9-1-1 as well as how to call the designated out-of-town contact.

Limit phone calls to urgent messages only. Keep calls short to free up the lines for others.

Fire extinguisher location

Water valve location and utility company phone number

Electrical panel location and utility company phone number

Gas valve location and utility company phone number (Shut off gas only when authorities tell you to do so)

Floor drain location (Always make sure it is clear of boxes, furniture, etc., in case of flooding.)

Emergency instructions

Call 9-1-1 (where available) to report a fire, a crime or to save a life.

For non-emergency calls, use the ten-digit numbers listed in your local phone book, or this emergency plan, for police, fire and other health services.

When notifying emergency services of your location, provide the exact street or civic address and nearest intersection.

For the gas and water valves, keep shut-off instructions close by and read them carefully.

In an emergency

Follow your emergency plan

Get your emergency kit

Make sure you are safe before assisting others

Listen to the radio or television for information from authorities. Local officials may advise you to stay where you are. Follow their instructions

Stay put until all is safe or until you are ordered to evacuate

Evacuation orders

Authorities will not ask you to leave your home unless they have reason to believe that you may be in danger.

If you are ordered to evacuate, take your emergency kit, your wallet, personal identification for each family member and copies of essential family documents with you. Bring a cellular phone and spare battery or charger with you, if you have one. Use travel routes specified by local authorities.

If you have time, call or e-mail your out-of-town contact. Tell them where you are going and when you expect to arrive. Once you are safe, let them know. Tell them if any family members have become separated.

If possible, leave a note telling others when you left and where you are. Shut off water and electricity if officials tell you to do so.

Leave natural gas service on unless officials tell you to turn it off. If you turn off the gas, the gas company has to reconnect it. In a major emergency, it could take weeks for a professional to respond.

Take pets with you. Lock your home. Follow instructions from authorities.

If you go to an evacuation centre, register your personal information at the registration desk. Do not return home until authorities advise that it is safe to do so.

Step 3. Get an emergency kit

In an emergency, you will need some basic supplies. You may need to get by without power or tap water. Be prepared to be self-sufficient for at least 72 hours.

You may have some of the items already, such as food, water and a battery-operated or crank flashlight. The key is to make sure they are organized and easy to find. Would you be able to find your flashlight in the dark?

Make sure your kit is easy to carry and everyone in the household knows where it is. Keep it in a backpack, duffle bag or suitcase with wheels, in an easy-to-reach, accessible place, such as your front-hall closet. If you have many people in your household, your emergency kit could get heavy. It’s a good idea to separate some of these supplies in backpacks. That way, your kit will be more portable and each person can personalize his or her own grab-and-go emergency kit.

Basic emergency kit

Water – at least two litres of water per person per day; include small bottles that can be carried easily in case of an evacuation order

Food that won’t spoil, such as canned food, energy bars and dried foods (replace food and water once a year)

Manual can-opener

Crank or battery-powered flashlight (and extra batteries). Replace batteries once a year.

Crank, battery-powered radio (and extra batteries) or Weatheradio

First aid kit

Extra keys to your car and house

Some cash in smaller bills, such as $10 bills and change for payphones

A copy of your emergency plan and contact information

If applicable, other items such as prescription medication, infant formula, equipment for people with disabilities, or food, water and medication for your pets or service animal (personalize according to your needs)

Recommended additional items

Two additional litres of water per person per day for cooking and cleaning

Candles and matches or lighter (place candles in deep, sturdy containers and do not burn unattended)

Change of clothing and footwear for each household member

Sleeping bag or warm blanket for each household member


Hand sanitizer


Garbage bags

Toilet paper

 Water purifying tablets

Basic tools (hammer, pliers, wrench, screwdrivers, work gloves, dust mask, pocket knife)

A whistle (in case you need to attract attention)

Duct tape (to tape up windows, doors, air vents, etc.)

If you think your water is contaminated, check with your municipality or local authorities for details. When in doubt, do not drink water you suspect may be contaminated.

Keep some cash on hand, as automated bank machines and their networks may not work during an emergency. You may have difficulty using debit or credit cards.

Pre-packaged kits

Canadian Red Cross kits can be purchased on the CRC website.  The Salvation Army also has a standard kit as well as a car kit available for purchase on its website.  Various other kits and supplies are also available for sale from other commercial entities.

Emergency vehicle kit

Prepare a small kit and keep it in your vehicle.

The basic kit should include:


Candle in a deep can and matches

Extra clothing and shoes

First aid kit with seatbelt cutter

Flashlight (crank or battery-powered). Replace batteries once a year.

Food that won’t spoil (such as energy bars)

List of contact numbers

Radio (crank or battery-powered). Replace batteries once a year.

Small shovel, scraper and snowbrush

Warning light or road flares



Recommended additional items to keep in your vehicle

Antifreeze, windshield washer fluid

Fire extinguisher

Road maps

Sand, salt or cat litter (non-clumping)

Tow rope and jumper cables

Emergency Kit Basic Items

Water – at least two litres of water per person per day; include small bottles that can be carried easily in case of an evacuation order

Food that won’t spoil, such as canned food, energy bars and dried foods (replace food and water once a year)

Manual can-opener

Crank or battery-powered flashlight (and extra batteries)

Crank or battery-powered radio (and extra batteries)

First aid kit

Extra keys to your car and house

Some cash in smaller bills, such as $10 bills and change for payphones

A copy of your emergency plan and contact information

Keep a corded phone in your home, as most cordless phones will not work during a power outage.

If applicable, other items such as prescription medication, infant formula, equipment for people with disabilities, or food, water and medication for your pets or service animal (personalize according to your needs).


To learn more about emergency preparedness, visit GetPrepared.ca or on your mobile device at m.GetPrepared.ca

  • Environment Canada Weather Office www.weatheroffice.gc.ca
    1-900-565-4455; a $2.99 per-minute charge applies Check the blue pages in your local phonebook under Weather for weather reports and forecasting available by phone.
  • Canadian Red Cross www.redcross.ca/prepare
    613-740-1900 or check for your local branch phone number.
  • St. John Ambulance www.sja.ca
    613-236-7461 or check for your local branch phone number. Toll-free: 1-888-840-5646
  • Salvation Army www.SalvationArmy.ca
    416-425-2111 or check for your local branch phone number.

Provincial and Territorial Resources

This publication was developed in collaboration with the provinces and territories:

Alberta Emergency Management Agency
Telephone: (780) 422-9000 / Toll-free: 310-0000

British Columbia
Emergency Management BC
Telephone: (250) 952-4913 / Emergency: 1-800-663-3456

Manitoba Emergency Measures Organization
Telephone: (204) 945-4772 / Toll-free: 1-888-267-8298

New Brunswick
New Brunswick Emergency Measures Organization
Telephone: (506) 453-2133 / Toll-free 24 Hour line: 1-800-561-4034

Newfoundland and Labrador
Newfoundland and Labrador Fire and Emergency Services
Telephone: (709) 729-3703

Northwest Territories
Northwest Territories Emergency Management Organization
Telephone: (867) 873-7538 / 24 Hour line: (867) 920-2303

Nova Scotia
Nova Scotia Emergency Management Office
Telephone Toll-free 24 Hour line: 1-866-424-5620

Nunavut Emergency Management
Telephone: (867) 975-5403 / Toll-free 24 Hour line: 1-800-693-1666

Office of the Fire Marshal and Emergency Management
Telephone: (647) 329-1100 / Toll-free 24 Hour line: 1-800-565-1842

Prince Edward Island
Prince Edward Island Emergency Measures Organization
Telephone: (902) 894-0385 / After hours: (902) 892-9365

Quebec – Ministère de la sécurité publique
Telephone (toll-free): 1-866-644-6826
General information (Services Québec): 1-877-644-4545

Saskatchewan Emergency Management Organization
Telephone: (306) 787-9563

Yukon Emergency Measures Organization
Telephone: (867) 667-5220
Toll free (within the Yukon): 1-800-661-0408

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